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Last September, I turned 40. Just a few months prior, I fell in love with an amazing 43-year-old man. The relationship moved fast; we quickly moved in together and started talking about building a family. We both wanted children, and preferably more than one. Since we planned to marry, we questioned whether we should do that first, and then start to create our dream family. But rather than wait, we decided to just go for it.

We started trying to conceive in October and we agreed to not put too much pressure on it: we would just continue to have fun sex as we were already doing and see what happened. He offered to get his sperm checked and I said, “No. If we’re not pregnant in six months, then we can both get tests done.” I thought about getting my hormone levels checked with my gynecologist, but I put that task on the back burner as well. I just wanted to have sex and not focus on the getting pregnant part. I wanted to hold onto the faith I had in my body and in its ability to do what I believed and hoped it could do—conceive with ease, regardless of the fact that I was now 40 years old.

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In all honesty—I never shared this with my partner—I did expect it to take at least three months, or probably more, to get pregnant. I know how long it can take a couple to conceive when both partners are over the age of 40. I know the increased risks of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities with age. I’ve heard about and read all of the same statistics we all hear about: the emotionally draining tests, the roller coaster ride of multiple rounds of IVF or Clomid, the painful shots, the mounting bills and the nights of tears. And, as much as I have always had faith in my body and its ability to conceive, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say these thoughts weren’t causing me some turmoil.

In fact, I know the road of fertility challenges better than most because I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and have specialized women’s health and fertility for the 10 years. I have helped hundreds of women on their path to conceiving and giving birth to a healthy child. I have written books and speak publicly on the topic, and I know all of the potential fertility challenges that exist because I have gone through them with my clients. I have witnessed way too many heart-wrenching fertility struggles. But, through my experience, I also know that most all the women I work with do wind up conceiving healthy children at some point--even in their 40s.

When I work with fertility clients, I guide them to adopt certain lifestyle changes—like becoming omnivores, eating organic, meditating, sleeping 7-8 hours each night and practicing gratitude—to optimize their fertility. Based on my decade of clinical experience and my years of extensive research, I believe that when we practice these lifestyle habits, we truly have the ability to change our health and improve our fertility--even in our 40s.

I’ve seen clinically how these tweaks in behavior can dramatically shift health in a positive direction. Many women, when they adopt these lifestyle changes, see improvement in their menstrual cycles and their ovulation; their hormonal imbalances balance out; their thyroid comes back into harmony; their lives change for the better; they are happier in the present moment; and, overall they are healthier on a global scale: mind, body and soul. It is then that I see them conceive—when mind, body and soul are in sync.

So, now it’s my turn to be a testament to what I preach: the way you live your life has an impact on your health and your fertility. And in my clinical opinion, chronological age pales in comparison to biological age.

As I am writing this, I am 16 weeks pregnant. I got pregnant the second month we tried. Last week, we got the results from my maternity 21 and nuchal translucency tests and they not only showed that the baby boy inside of me is healthy, but also that I have the same genetic odds of anything going wrong with this pregnancy as a women half my age. The doctors have told me there is no need for any further testing. We are in the clear.

I can’t tell you what a relief that news was. That’s not to say that when I go to the bathroom, I still make sure there’s no blood on the toilet paper or that I randomly catch myself squeezing my breasts (sometimes in public!) to make sure they’re still sore, or when I feel cramping in my low back, I fear I am miscarrying—even though I know it’s just the baby growing. I guess this is just the beginning of being parent and worrying about your child’s well being. It’s absolutely surreal.

For as many times as I’ve been on the other side of this with one of my clients, nothing compares to now knowing it and living it first hand. It truly is a miracle. And then to know that my odds of having a healthy baby are the same as someone half my age--I feel that is a true testament to all the work I have done on my health over the years. I really believe the way I live my life has reversed my aging process, or at the least slowed down the aging process of my body and its cells.

I’m living proof that 40 and pregnant happens and it can happen naturally, with ease and fun. I am proud to say that I treat my body like the palace I believe it is, and even though I had—and, will likely continue to have—moments of worry and fear over the health of my baby, I never lost faith in my body and its ability to conceive a healthy child at some point. For all this, I am beyond grateful.

As I always say in my clinic: you have the power to change your health and improve your fertility. My pregnancy at 40 years old is evidence of that.

Author, acupuncturist, and herbalist Aimee Raupp is a women’s health and fertility expert. Follow along on her blog for more on her pregnancy journey and check out her latest book, Yes, You Can Get Pregnant: Natural Ways To Improve Your Fertility Now and Into Your 40’s. And come meet her in person at Well Rounded NY’s Tips by Trimester event on March 26! Register here.

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Happy half-birthday! Can you believe it was only six months ago that your baby's schedule consisted of just sleeping and eating? Now, your happy buddy is probably working on a whole new repertoire of skills.

Although the cake will have to wait, this milestone can be celebrated with your baby's first bites of solid food. Just be sure to keep the camera ready as your little one gets more mashed avocado on their face than in their mouth.

Now that they're ready to sit in a high chair, it's time to envision all of the family meals to come. This makes right now a great time to start thinking about the dinner rituals you hope to create… and upgrade your dining space to match those dreams.

As you round the corner on your little one's first year, here's what we suggest adding to the shopping list:

Never fear the messy bites: Cloud Island bibs

Cloud Island Bibs

It's a pretty successful meal if approximately half of the food ends up in your 6-month-old's mouth. Make sure the other half doesn't end up on their clothes by stocking up on bibs that are easy to wash.

$9.99

Make room at the table: Graco Floor2Table high chair

Graco High Chair

Feeding your baby requires your full attention, so it's generally best to do it before or after your own mealtime. But it's still nice to include your baby at family dinner with their own seat at the table. It won't be long before they ask you to pass the mashed potatoes!

$149.99

For those first bites of “real food”  Beaba training spoons

Beaba

After a lifetime of only drinking from a bottle and/or breast, eating from a utensil has to feel like a major adjustment. Help your baby warm up to this new way of eating with a supply of baby-sized spoons.

$19.00

For mastering the art of baby food prep: Baby Brezza food processor

Baby Brezza

Good news: There are no advanced culinary skills required to make baby food. By steaming and pureeing their first meals, you can take charge of what foods and flavors you introduce.

$99.99

For last-minute mealtime: Happy Baby pouches

Happy Baby

Let's be honest: It can feel miraculous to get one meal on the table, let alone two separate ones. When you want or need a simpler option, it's nice to have a stockpile of convenient, healthy baby food pouches.

$6.49

For the splatter zone: Bumpkins splat mat

Bumpkins splat mat

As your baby begins eating, prepare to be amazed by all of the places you'll find traces of pureed sweet potatoes. This makes it a perfect time to swap out your dining room rug for an easy-to-clean option.

$19.39

For easy family meals: Instant Pot Duo Nova

Instant pot

When there are only so many hours in the day, the less time you can spend cooking and cleaning up afterward the better. There's a reason this is called an 'instant' pot—it'll free up so much precious time for you to spend with your family.

$119.99

For greenery without the commitment: Project 62 artificial plant

Project 62

We love including greenery in our home decor, but when you're busy enough keeping the people in your house alive, the last thing you need is a houseplant to water. Thankfully, today's faux plant options look so convincing that no one will know the difference.

$7.99

For counting all those steps: Fitbit Inspire activity tracker

Fit bit

Between walking and lifting that growing babe, you've been exercising this whole time without even realizing it, mama! Give yourself a boost of confidence by realizing how much movement you clock on a daily basis.

$99.95

For nighttime reading: Threshold table lamp 

threshold lamp

After months of tip-toeing around your own bedroom so you don't wake a sleeping baby, it's slightly thrilling to reclaim the space as your baby transitions to their own bedroom. This is a perfect time to start a new bedtime reading routine—complete with a stylish bedside lamp.

$44.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

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